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We've Decoded the Office Dress Codes

May 18th, 2017 at 2:00am

You’ve received your intern schedule and locked down your summer housing. Everything for your dream summer internship is perfectly planned—until your supervisor sends you the office dress code and you’re pretty sure she’s speaking a foreign language.

Yes, business casual sounds chill—but is it actually? Does business formal mean you need to wear a ball gown to work? Does “casual” mean yoga pants are acceptable? Does anyone know the answers to these questions?

If you’re currently freaking out, fear not. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to break down the basics of the most common office dress codes to take the guess work out of work clothes.

Business Formal: As you probably guessed from the name, this is the most formal of the bunch. If this is the dress code for your office, you should plan on looking very polished at all times. A tailored dress or pantsuit will always work, and heels or very nice flats are most likely the shoe of choice in this type of setting. (Save your sneakers for your commute.) Imagine what you would wear when giving a presentation for a professor or showing up to an interview—this dress code is exactly that. 

(Photo via @withlovethelms)

Business Casual. This is probably the most common dress code, but it can also end up being the most tricky. Wear something that feels “business-y” to you, but there’s no need to be extremely buttoned-up. It is important to note that in some offices with this dress code, jeans are fine. In others, denim is a no-go. If business casual is the policy at your office, our advice is to dress more professionally than you normally would the first week. If you see that others are dressing more casually, you can then choose to alter your attire. Just remember—what you wear can make a huge impression on your boss and everyone else in the office. If you’re trying to impress someone, always be a little more formal. The extra effort will be sure to have a positive impact on your reputation.

 Photo via @lovelyykelly

Casual. This dress code is the one we all secretly hope for at the end of the day. If this is the policy at your office, you’ve hit the jackpot. However, don’t use this as an excuse to wear sweats to work everyday—remember, the dress code is casual, not pajamas (no matter how on trend they are). Jeans, laid back dresses, and flats are all fine with this dress code. However, there are a few rules to keep in mind, even in this type of setting. While your boss may be super laid back, it’s still smart to err on the side of caution. Don’t show up to work in a crop top and leggings unless someone has specifically told you that’s okay. And even then, save your midriff for the beach.


Photo via @fracturedaesthetic

When in doubt, always feel out the vibe first before going out on a limb. And if you’re still unsure—just ask. When it comes to dress codes and professional attire, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

How do you infuse your personal style into your office looks? Show us on Instagram, and don’t forget to tag @cfashionista